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Chambers May See Funding Cut

County budget shows less money for visitor information services

If the county budget for 2003 remains as it has been projected, look for a possible funding problem for the Mt. Adams Chamber of Commerce and the Goldendale Chamber of Commerce next year.

According to Debra Reed, general manager of the Mt. Adams Chamber of Commerce, Klickitat County is advising the chambers to expect 25 percent less in county support for visitor information services in 2003.

"Last year, the county wanted to put in our contract that we would endeavor to cut back expenses by 25 percent for 2002," Reed explained. "We said we couldn't do that."

Last year's contract between the county and the Mt. Adams Chamber of Commerce directed that the Chamber "shall reduce its dependency on Klickitat County for future funding."

The 2002 contract between the county and the Mt. Adams Chamber of Commerce also called for the Chamber to support the county's direct tourism efforts: "Contractor shall maintain an area to display brochures and other information promoting Klickitat County's tourism industry, free of charge and equal priority display location to all tourism-related businesses located within Klickitat County ... and endeavor, in good faith, to promote tourism-related attractions throughout the county."

"We provide about $28,000 just for visitor services in a year, and we asked for $20,000 [for 2002] from the county to offset that. We ended up getting $15,750," Reed said.

Reed added that she has not yet heard from anybody in the county regarding the 2003 budget.

The Mt. Adams Chamber sponsors a series of community events during the year, including the Community Pride Cleanup Week, the White Salmon Spring Festival, the Trout Lake Festival of the Arts, Huckleberry Festival in Bingen, the Sunday Market, the "Klick-Klickitat Photoshoot," and candidates' forums during election years.

In 2001, according to Reed, 4,089 visitors signed the guest book at the Mt. Adams Chamber of Commerce/Heritage Center site on State Route 14 just west of the Hood River Toll Bridge.

Tom Seifert, business specialist for the Klickitat County Economic Development Department, pointed out that annual visitor counts at the Maryhill Visitor Information Center are two to three times greater than that of the Mt. Adams Chamber and Goldendale Chamber combined.

Klickitat County Commissioner Don Struck said the funding the chambers receive comes from a recommendation of the county's 11-member Tourism Advisory Board, which is comprised of business owners throughout the county.

"They recommend the funding level and division of hotel/motel tax dollars," Struck said. "The board recommends how to distribute the tax, which typically brings in $32,000-$36,000 a year. The board recommends how much should go for chambers, how much for visitors' centers, how much for brochures, etc. We usually follow that recommendation."

Seifert noted that the Chamber of Commerce offices have not traditionally received county funding.

"The first time any Chamber received any money from the county was 1996," Seifert said.

Struck said final budget decisions weren't likely until late September or October.

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